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95-point Alsace Pinot Gris - May 2018

The May 2018 edition of Decanter features a major feature of Pinots Gris and Grigio from around the world.

It came to us as no surprise that:

  • all but two of of the 16 wines scoring 92 points or above are specified as Pinot Gris rather than Pinot Grigio;
  • 11 of those 16 are from Alsace (and thus all Pinot Gris); and
  • the review’s two Outstandings (95 points and above) are both Pinot Gris from Alsace, and both of these are from Grand Cru vineyards (see below).

What we’re super-keen to tell you, of course, is that we have (exclusively) the only supplies outside France of the one Outstanding that is UK-available. And we will be doing that, with quite a lot more on the producer and their quite excellent range.

But first a quick recap.

Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris. Is there a difference?

Well, yes and no. Put simply: they’re the same grape, but not (at all) the same wine. Pinot Grigio is the Italian name, Pinot Gris the French.

But those two names have come to signify two quite different styles. By 2010, Pinot Grigio had become the world’s most popular white wine. Made in a modern, super-drinkable ‘Italian’ style,  it is (famously) light-bodied, crisp, fresh, zesty and minerally, jam-packed with stone fruit and floral aromas and - in its better versions - a curious wee hint of spice. Pinot Gris, par contre, is all about later and riper picking, creating a wine that is less immediately acidic and altogether more serious, full-bodied, more textured, complex, silky, viscous and luscious; indeed, the very best (see below) often accompany great cellaring/ageing potential.

And that’s where Alsace comes in, right?

Quite so. There are fine Pinot Gris emerging from New Zealand, Argentina, Oregon and Washington state and cooler-climate parts of Australia (especially Mornington Peninsular). But the undoubted homeland of Pinot Gris is Alsace, where Pinot Gris, as the Oxford Companion to Wine describes, “has been gaining ground and is revered as provider of super-rich, usually dry, wines that can be partnered with food without the distraction of too much aroma”.

Alsace’s vineyards – equally (if not more) famous for their Rieslings and Gewürztraminers – form a ribbon just 1 km wide but fully some 60km long and lie along a long N-S mountain flank (facing south and south-east, naturally) and benefit from an expectedly (this far north) warm, dry and sunny climate. The soils are a spectacular mish-mash, drawn from a whole host of geologies: sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic, largely driven by the nearby Vosges mountains.

And Grand Cru vineyards?

Yes, just like in Burgundy and Champagne, that’s an Alsace thing. The Grand Cru appellation – introduced in 1975 – identifies some 51 vineyards that benefit from superior soils, aspects and microclimates and that are subject to particular restrictions on yields and varieties grown. The result is ‘riper’ wines of the highest quality which give the very best possible reflections of their terroir.

So… back to this Decanter Outstanding

Patience, please. It comes to us from Domaine Rieflé (which appears in Decanter as Domaine Rieflé-Landmann), based in Pfaffenheim, between Colmar and Mulhouse. Their vineyards - a total area of 23 ha (57 acres) - cover more than 80 plots to the south and south-west of Pfaffenheim, including a number of superior lieu-dit vineyards and two Grand Cru sites: Zinnkoepflé and Steinert (see map below and also this excellent link)

Plots of vineyard are treated individually according to their unique characteristics in order to strengthen the connection between the terroir and the wine it produces. Also, and impressively, Domaine Rieflé is certified fully organic: no pesticide or other synthetic chemical product is used in the vineyards.

As they point out, Domaine Rieflé is a small affair driven by family spirit and a highly responsible approach to winemaking. Faced with the realities of a global market, they take Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s words as inspiration: "We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children''. 

The Pinot Gris, the Pinot Gris...

Yes, the Pinot Gris. Exel had a great afternoon tasting this and its Riesling and Pinot Noir brothers and sisters (see below).

The Pinot Gris comes from Rieflé's portion of the Steinert Grand Cru plot.

We had perhaps expected (probably erroneously) a real hurricane of flavours and dials-set-to-11 richness in a New World way; after all, much of the Pinot Gris we see and sell these days is from NZ. Instead, for all its considerable richness, we saw something rather more balanced and, frankly (unsurprisingly), better.

The body/mouthfeel is expansive, and the acidity uppish (for Pinot Gris) but restrained. What is most impressive is such high complexity for a Pinot Gris of its tender years (Rieflé see this as ageing into the 2030s!) - one can easily separate out stone fruits (peach and apricot), honey, wet wool/flax (I got something very Chenin-y here), and plenty of toastiness (already - one wouldn't typically expect this so fully until 5 years from vintage). This is aged for a short period in large, (twice-)used oak 500-litre demi-muids...  and the appealling complexity from that (very) slight oxidation and oak influence is just noticeable.

This is a wonderful Alsace Grand Cru Pinot Gris; drink it now and you won't be disappointed; watch it age and get access to all those extra development flavours if/as you will.

And the price... the price is incredible for a wine of this quality, due both to our low margins and the fact that we import this one directly.

Domaine Rieflé Alsace Grand Cru Steinert Pinot Gris 2015

£24.90

 

So that's it, is it? 

You want a lot of pleasing, you do. As it happens, that's not it. You see, Monsieur Rieflé was very keen (and quite rightly so, as it emerges) that we try his other top-end wines from both Grand Cru and lieu-dit sites. We were keen to oblige and very pleasantly surprised. So pleasantly, in fact, that we are making these available at the same time as the Steinert Pinot Gris.

So, what's good?

Naturally, if it wasn't good, we wouldn't be taking it in. Click here or on the image below for the Rieflé range we stock. Do read on.. 

https://www.exelwines.co.uk/search?q=riefle

The Riesling from the same 2015 vintage and self-same Steinert Grand Cru vineyard is very worthy of your attention. Two of the Exel team rated it above the Steinert Pinot Gris for intensity, complexity, ageability etc (and at a price almost £3 lower, too): it was just the bad luck of this Riesling that the Decanter feature was restricted to Pinot Gris.

Its little brother, the 2015 Riesling from the lesser (albeit still lieu-dit) Bihl vineyard is almost as impressive: indeed, for those that like their Rieslings that touch more citrussy and minerally, and for some great intensity,  this comes highly recommended

Which leaves that comparative rarity, an Alsace Pinot Noir, the Strangenberg 2016 (again, Strangenberg is a lieu-dit site just south of Steinert). This proved a palpable hit with the Exel team, perhaps against our expectations. This is a team that unashamedly loves its 'Cabernised" New World Pinot Noirs ... whereas Alsatian Pinot Noirs are famous for inhabiting the lighter end of the power spectrum. However, the Strangenberg - aged (partially) in new oak, but clearly with marked subtlety - delighted us with its sheer red fruit appeal, elegance and balance. Cote de Beaune fans would do well to sample this.

See the foot of this page for further links to product pages and to buy the above wines.

Whatever you try from Domaine Rieflé, we feel certain that you will do as we now suggest... which is, enjoy.

 

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Domaine Riefle Alsace Grand Cru Steinert Pinot Gris 2015 (1x 75cl)

We also highly recommend the rest of the Domaine Rieflé range, click here. 

For our article on Alsace, Pinot Gris and Domaine Rieflé, click here.

Awarded 95 poiints and Outstanding status in the May 2018 edition of Decanter article: World's Best Pinot Gris Buys.

Domaine Riefle Alsace Grand Cru Steinert Pinot Gris 2015 - May 2018 Decanter review

The Rieflé family is deeply rooted in the history and culture of the Rhine. Six generations have built the family's winemaking tradition since it began in 1850. From the 1980s, Annick and Jean-Claude Rieflé (and their team of dedicated winemakers) made the most of the new opportunities created by the EU and globalisation, introducing the domaine's Alsatian wines to new consumers. They were joined at the domaine by their sons, Thomas and Paul, in 2009 and 2010. Thomas manages the vineyard and Paul is responsible for building the business.

They developed and certified the entire vineyard in accordance with Organic Agriculture specifications. As well as respecting the soil, flora, fauna and health in general, Organic Agriculture is also a useful means of bringing out the different characteristics of Domaine Rieflé's numerous terroirs. As part of the domaine's humanist approach and support for the local community, manual work is outsourced to a local association for professional reintegration.

Alsace white wines can confuse the consumer by inadvertently concealing their sweetness level. This Pinot Gris has a residual sugar level of 2g/litre and is thus fully (almost bone) dry.

Elsewhere, rather then describe the wine ourselves, we can do no better than hand you to the producers and their excellent data sheet (see blue link below).

Domaine Riefle Alsace Grand Cru Steinert Pinot Gris 2015 fiche technique

£24.90

Domaine Riefle Alsace Grand Cru Steinert Riesling 2015 (1x 75cl)

We also highly recommend the rest of the Domaine Rieflé range, click here. 

For our article on Alsace, Pinot Gris and Domaine Rieflé, click here.

The Rieflé family is deeply rooted in the history and culture of the Rhine. Six generations have built the family's winemaking tradition since it began in 1850. From the 1980s, Annick and Jean-Claude Rieflé (and their team of dedicated winemakers) made the most of the new opportunities created by the EU and globalisation, introducing the domaine's Alsatian wines to new consumers. They were joined at the domaine by their sons, Thomas and Paul, in 2009 and 2010. Thomas manages the vineyard and Paul is responsible for building the business.

They developed and certified the entire vineyard in accordance with Organic Agriculture specifications. As well as respecting the soil, flora, fauna and health in general, Organic Agriculture is also a useful means of bringing out the different characteristics of Domaine Rieflé's numerous terroirs. As part of the domaine's humanist approach and support for the local community, manual work is outsourced to a local association for professional reintegration.

Alsace white wines can confuse the consumer by inadvertently concealing their sweetness level. This Riesling has a residual sugar level of 3.5g/litre and is thus fully dry.

Elsewhere, rather then describe the wine ourselves, we can do no better than hand you to the producers and their excellent data sheet (see blue link below).

Domaine Riefle Alsace Grand Cru Steinert Riesling 2015 fiche technique

£22.00

Domaine Riefle Alsace Lieu-Dit Strangenberg Pinot Noir 2016 (1x 75cl)

We also highly recommend the rest of the Domaine Rieflé range, click here. 

For our article on Alsace, Pinot Gris and Domaine Rieflé, click here.

The Rieflé family is deeply rooted in the history and culture of the Rhine. Six generations have built the family's winemaking tradition since it began in 1850. From the 1980s, Annick and Jean-Claude Rieflé (and their team of dedicated winemakers) made the most of the new opportunities created by the EU and globalisation, introducing the domaine's Alsatian wines to new consumers. They were joined at the domaine by their sons, Thomas and Paul, in 2009 and 2010. Thomas manages the vineyard and Paul is responsible for building the business.

They developed and certified the entire vineyard in accordance with Organic Agriculture specifications. As well as respecting the soil, flora, fauna and health in general, Organic Agriculture is also a useful means of bringing out the different characteristics of Domaine Rieflé's numerous terroirs. As part of the domaine's humanist approach and support for the local community, manual work is outsourced to a local association for professional reintegration.

Elsewhere, rather then describe the wine ourselves, we can do no better than hand you to the producers and their excellent data sheet (see blue link below).

Domaine Riefle Alsace Lieu-Dit Strangenberg Pinot Noir 2016 fiche technique

£22.00
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